You survived labor and delivery! Now you’re back at home with this new life and it’s time to hit the ground running. We arrive home and suddenly everything we have read and all the advice we received simply flies out of our head and there you are dumbfounded. This sweet little baby is relying on you now what?
“I’m new, I’m new and I don’t know what to do!” may run reels in your brain or you may say to yourself,
“Baby number two and I forgot what to do!”
Newborn Care 101
Newborns are so tiny and appear so fragile. It can be intimidating to go about the day to day raising a newborn. Now that we are faced with the big question, “What’s next?” lets break it down into simple steps. This is newborn 101, you survived the pregnancy and the hospital now it’s time to ease into living with a newborn and newborn care. This is a compilation of advice and methods that worked for our family and in sharing I hope can do the same for you.
Let us think about what is going on in your newborns big beautiful brain. They were just bundled up inside your womb where it’s warm, loud (heartbeats, your breathing) and snug. Suddenly they are pushed out of their cozy little cocoon and into this bright, busy world. All they know is mommy and daddy provides food and comfort and they like their rest.
Now, what to do once you’re home.
First of all, welcome home momma. It’s been busy in the hospital, paperwork, nurses and doctors, car seat tests (if your baby was early), birth certificates, breast or bottle feeding, the list goes on. It’s time to settle in where you’ve laid your roots. If you have other children take some time to snuggle up with them and baby. Sit on the couch and rest, hold the baby and talk with your kids. No need to jump into the thick of things if you don’t have to.
Newborn’s sleeps a lot, most of the day, actually. They need to feed every two to three hours and they need to be changed frequently. With that established, I want to focus on the things that may present a challenge.
Baby Bath time
I’m sure the nurses gave you some pointers on how to bathe your baby. Most of them help you and walk you through it. It is entirely up to you how often or when to bathe your newborn. We chose every evening as a nighttime routine, to indicate it will be bedtime. In the early days, when your newborn still has an umbilical stump and if you had a boy you may have had him circumcised, it’s recommended not to submerge these healing spots into water. Therefore, a sponge bath it is until these areas fully healed.
Water can make your baby cold when left exposed and naked. I found the best way to keep baby warm and keep their wounds dry was to fill the baby bath just so that their bottom and back hit the warm water but it does not rise up over their belly or a boy’s family jewels. To help visualize this I would say approximately 1 inch of water. Use two wash cloths, one to clean the baby the other to wet in the warm water and drape over their legs to give them a bit of warmth on top. Wash their body first and keep the hair dry until you finish cleaning their body, then wash their hair. Save the head for last. A wet head (and hair if your baby has any) makes a cold baby.
The key to washing is slow and steady. Some babies will scream and holler the whole time, some love it, be sure to proceed slowly and speak calming words to your baby. Gently clean all the rolls and crevices. A clean baby is a happy baby.
Our pediatrician advised us to incorporate a hair dryer into our routine to prevent diaper rash from festering. Our little one had a case of diaper rash and the warm air was very soothing to his bottom and ensured that his underside was dry before we applied rash cream and a diaper. Put it on a low warm setting and use it to dry the baby. Our baby loves it and it helped him become more accepting of bathing.
Umbilical Stumps and Circumcisions
Oh how I dreaded these. Your sweet little angel is only a few days old and has healing wounds. They say the umbilical stump is not painful to baby, but it sure appears painful. What a relief when that thing finally falls off. The best way to ensure it heals properly is to keep it dry and clean. Try to fold the front of baby’s diaper down if it comes up over it. Most diapers have a little dip in the front to help with umbilical cord healing. However, the diaper may still graze the area. I like to fold it down just a bit to keep it clear from friction.
It’s not unusual for the umbilical cord to stink a little. If this happens, grab a Q-tip with warm water and gentle baby soap and clean the area well. It will help the healing process as well. It should fall off between 3 to 10 days.
If you had a boy and opted for circumcision, this is another area to care for. I found this area to torment me so. I was constantly calling the nurse to ask if something was normal. In both cases, everything was fine and all healed normal. The best advice I can give to you for this is when you place a new diaper on your son, ever so gently point his penis down.
This keeps the urine from saturating the top of the diaper and leaking as well as from sitting right on the healing area. Applying a small amount of petroleum jelly to the inside of the diaper helps prevent the healing area from sticking to the inside of the diaper between changes. Even after the area is healed, point it down. This helps prevent leaking and is more comfortable for baby.
Breastfeeding and Bottles
Breastfeeding is super beneficial to baby and mother. If you can breastfeed, I would recommend giving it a try. It is challenging and painful in the beginning, but it gets easier as you go and is a cherished bonding time.
If you choose to breastfeed, don’t toss out then bottles. It’ s important to introduce a bottle early on and feed your baby from one at least once a day. This will help you in the future when you decide to stop breastfeeding or if you be away for a day. My first child did not take to breastfeeding well so he bottle fed more than not. My second child latched immediately and being as thrilled as I was, I didn’t even think to introduce a bottle until it was too late. He would not take one, at all. Threw massive fits and we tried every bottle on the market. So, heed my warning and feed that baby a bottle here and there.
Skin to Skin Time
Newborns are still developing even after birth. Their little digestive systems are maturing as they get accustomed to the new food supply. Pediatricians and many medical professionals will insist on skin to skin time as there are multiple benefits. It promotes healthy weight gain, reduces stress, increases breast milk production and accelerates development. There is a plethora of informative research out there on the topic of skin to skin contact associated with newborn care and the advantages that correlate along with it.
Also known as kangaroo care, skin to skin time is also beneficial to newborns with jaundice. Contact with the mother’s skin helps their system to mature and recover from jaundice naturally along with a dose of sunlight for at least 15 minutes a day. If the case is more severe your pediatrician will send you home with a photo-therapy light. We had to have this for our second child because the weather was not in our favor when he was born. Not a stitch of sunlight for days. To easily keep baby close, wear a Kangaroo Care Top. This allows you to easily keep baby close, yet you can be hands free. They also make one for dad!
Sleep is something that may become an ancient legend with a new baby. Feeding is still needed at night, every 2 to 3 hours. My advice here consists of two options. One, have daddy provide a bottle feeding. This will help you get some more Z’s and get baby to recognize the bottle. Option two is something most may not agree with, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I co-slept for both my children. It allowed me to get a full night’s sleep and baby slept well too. This can be a scary subject for some moms and others just don’t trust themselves with baby in the bed too. These days they have great products out there to make co-sleeping more comfortable. From an attachable side bassinet to a DocATot that lays in the bed with you. They are great items if you fear baby will be crushed beneath you.
Co-sleeping is simple, it’s efficient and you don’t have to sacrifice your rest. Simply lay baby next to you and pop a boob in their mouth. They stay lying down and so do you. When they finish, slip them back in their bedside bassinet. You don’t need to get up or anything. This helped keep me sane. If I don’t get decent rest I get super snappy. Co-sleeping took the stress of night feeding out of the equation and we all sleep great!
When six months rolls around, its a good time to introduce the crib. Six months is when I establish sleep training. I feel this is an appropriate time when baby can comprehend the concept of bedtime as well as independent slumber. Sleep training is hard, but once established, so liberating.
Those little baby nails can be a strenuous obstacle. When those little fingers and toes grow enough nail to trim, most parents are hesitant to try. Those phalanges are incredibly tiny, one slip and you may snip the finger. What to do now. You can opt for the baby mittens. They come in handy and serve their purpose.
However, it may come to a point that you will want to snip those nails. The best way to achieve this is waiting until baby is asleep. Chances are they will be still and allow you to gently and carefully clip their nails in an efficient manner.
Newborn care can be a bit intimidating. I hope you find these tips useful when you bring baby home. Smother that little bundle of joy with love, they will only be this little once. Time will fly and before you know it they will be grown. Soak up all you can with the new addition and enjoy this parenting adventure!